Book Review: From Tablet to Table

From Tablet to Table: Where Community is Found and Identity is Formed
by Leonard Sweet

Leonard Sweet writes in his book, From Tablet to Table, that the Bible begins in Genesis with the command to “eat freely” and ends in Revelation with the command to “drink freely.”  It’s a Biblical sandwich of table-dialogue.  His book spreads the table wide, talking about every aspect imaginable related to eating and drinking in the Bible: about Christian community, Communion, storytelling, relationships, and Jesus’ ministry of inviting everyone to the table, including ‘sinners.’  I had never considered the pervasiveness of food and eating to the Bible or to our faith until I read this book.  tablet-to-table

At times, Sweet is super-practical, giving instructions about what to bring to a meal when you are an invited guest.  At other times, he is rhetorical, arguing for ideas, like the need for more storytelling and table-sharing in Christianity.  Then, he moves along to reminding parents of the value of dinner table conversations instead of meals-on-the-go or silent suppers spent in front of the television.

His style is readable and quick-moving, but always masterful and eloquent.  He seems like the kind of teacher/professor that you’d want to sit and listen to because his use of language alone is captivating.  At the same time, the book is so very broad in its discussion of ‘table’ that I almost felt like I couldn’t narrow it down. What was it about?  What the modern church should look like?  Servant evangelism?  Family life?  Yes, to all of the above.

I also felt there were moments where he sacrificed theology on the altar of rhetorical artistry.  He seems to get caught up in the language and then try to finish off the argument with one final dazzling move.  For instance, he argues about needing more shared meals in Christian community and then tosses out that it was Eve’s solitary eating that got her into trouble.  Well, actually, no, that wasn’t what got Eve into trouble at all.  It’s easy to get swept up in what he’s saying because he says it well, and yet there were times I needed to stop and say, “Actually, I don’t think that’s right or true.” It’s not often, perhaps, but it is a book to be read with attention so you just don’t nod your head at everything and end up agreeing to things you don’t really believe.

Still, I loved his emphasis on how we’re people of ‘story’ and yet we sometimes don’t take the time to swap stories like we should.  It’s a lost art of relationship and hospitality that helps us draw people to Christ, not as some new evangelistic strategy or three-step witnessing formula, but by genuine love through spending time with others.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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